The Salkantay Trek is the second most popular route to Machu Picchu after the Inca Trail. You’ll be spending a few days on the trail away from the city with basic provisions. The route is also challenging and at high altitude.
For these reasons you need to make sure you’re as prepared as you can be. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to prepare for the Salkantay Trek.
Salkantay Trek Altitude Sickness
The highest point of the Salkantay Trek is 4,600 masl, and the average throughout the route is 3,000 masl. For this reason, you need to make sure you’re well prepared for the altitude and all the problems that can arise.
If you aren’t ready for it, you can suffer from nausea, headaches, tiredness, dizziness, and breathlessness. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re prepared to face the altitude.
- Speak to a doctor back home to see if they can prescribe you any medication to help with altitude sickness, just in case.
- Once in Cusco, you will find oxygen cans and pills at the pharmacies if you need them.
- Drink coca or muna tea. These have been used since the Inca times and have a great rep for helping with the effects of high altitude.
- Take things easy when you get to Cusco. Limit alcohol intake and don’t overdo things. Rest will help you acclimate.
- Spend at least 2-3 days in Cusco or the Sacred Valley before the trek to help your body adjust.
Is Acclimatizing Essential?
Yes! If you fail to take the necessary precautions you will feel unwell. It’s unknown for passengers to cancel tours at the last minute because they don’t feel good enough to go, or even for them to come back to Cusco midway through because they have fallen ill.
How Strenuous is Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is relatively challenging. You’ll be heading up to a very high altitude and also find that the terrin can be tough. Ascending and descending throughout can also be tough on your joints, especially knees and ankles. Walking poles can help with that.
Day 2 of the trek is the most difficult as you walk for a total of 10 hours and over some difficult terrain. You also need to endure the steep and winding path up to the Salkantay Pass at 4,600 masl.
Fitness and Training for Salkantay Trek
The Salkantay Trek is relatively tough, so it’s best to practice and prepare a little beforehand, especially when it comes to fitness. You can definitely take part if you haven’t ever trekked before, but take into consideration these tips to help you do the best you can.
- Do not hike in new boots. Make sure the hiking boots you choose are well worn in. If you’ve bought new ones, take them on plenty of walks back home so that they are comfy.
- Do some practice hikes at home. Start with short ones and slowly increase their length. It’s a good idea to head out for long weekends to hike for a few days in a row. This way, you are simulating what you’ll be doing on the trek. Also try to take walks in places with rough terrain to get used to different flooring.
- Train with walking poles back home so you get used to them before the trek.
- Hike up hills and mountains, as you’ll also come up against a few on the trek.
- Do plenty of strength and cardio exercises so that your muscles are strengthened and your body becomes accustomed to strenuous exercise.
Leg Exercises to Train
If you need help with coming up with some exercises to help you strengthen leg muscles, here are a few. Try to include a few reps every day when you have spare time.
- Back squats
- Front squats
Can I Do That?
Yes, of course. Anyone is able to take on the challenge if they have prepared accordingly. These exercises are meant for anyone to be able to complete and walking and hiking back home shouldn’t be too much of a hassle for most people.
How Fit Do You Need to Be?
You do need to be healthy and fit to finish the Salkantay Trek, which most people are. You don’t need to be a big hiker or exercise all the time to be able to complete it, but it is recommended to do some physical preparation beforehand.
Most people are able to complete the challenge if they eat well, prepare beforehand regarding fitness and the altitude, and have been going on hikes to get ready for this one.
The main physical requirements you need to take part in this trek are:
- To be in good shape mentally and physically
- Have strong leg muscles
- Have no health issues regarding breathing
- Consume a healthy diet and not consume harmful substances
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